Last year at home in northern California our friends Paul and Lily English invited us to join them on the 2014 Highland 3 Day Classic Tour. Without hesitation we said yes. What were we thinking? We didn’t know an Austin Healey from an Aston Martin and thought a Tulip diagram was about flower anatomy. The prospect of driving hundreds of miles on the wrong side of the road in someone else’s cherished car seemed quite daunting. However, our motto is “Carpe Diem” and after flying into London and spending a few days getting over jet lag we headed north in a rental car.
Motoring up the M6 in bumper to bumper traffic in a downpour was a white knuckled introduction to driving in the UK-we thought the traffic was bad in LA! Once off of the motorway we felt particularly incompetent negotiating the endless series of roundabouts. The subtleties of English signage seemed to escape us as we developed vertigo in the roundabouts never certain which exit to take. Our performance did not bode well for the upcoming tour.
We finally arrived in Broughton and received a warm welcome from Mike and Catherine. They introduced us to their beautiful MGBGT which would be our ride on the Highland Tour. Luckily for us, Mike did not seem at all concerned about loaning the MGB to a couple of classic car neophytes that he had just met. We loved driving the car and the fact that it is an automatic (while heresy to purists) meant that we avoided the additional cognitive challenge of shifting gears.
We headed north into Scotland relieved that the recent election had kept the UK intact.
During the next four days we met many friendly members of the Lancashire Automobile Club who made us feel welcome. The Tour route drove through some of the most beautiful country we have ever seen. The Isle of Skye was particularly stunning and included a walk to the Fairy Pools. We stayed at unique and charming hotels and enjoyed regional cuisine including haggis, black pudding and Cranachan. Tessa evolved from being a chronic back seat driver to a skilled navigator who took to the challenges like a pro. I really enjoyed the driving tests, happy to have not crashed the car while avoiding the pylons. We started to feel rather smug (as if we knew what we were doing) when strangers would speak admiringly of the(our) MGB.
The tour ended in great form with the Ceilidh in Dunkeld. Modeling a kilt in front of the group was educational and has made me rethink my wardrobe.
Our drive through Scotland left us with many great memories and we are very thankful to Paul and Lily for expanding our horizons and especially to Mike, Catherine and everybody involved in organizing the Highland Tour for their hard work, generosity and kindness.
Jeff and Tessa Thomas